I’m excited about today’s post, because I’m passionate about turning a house into a cozy, welcoming home! A home isn’t just a building where you eat and sleep – it’s where family and friends gather, where memories are made, and it’s where we should be able to let out a deep breath and relax. Bjorn and I are currently renting a house and I have slowly, steadily (and with help) been able to turn this place into OUR cozy, happy place!
Growing Into Our Current Place:
Spring and Summer 2013 – the end of our 4 years of college – was a whirlwind season for Bjorn and me! We got engaged in May that year, and we were already deep in the throes of job-searching for teaching positions. By God’s grace and beautiful timing, in June Bjorn and I both secured teaching jobs in his hometown, which is where we hoped to end up anyway!
We planned a March 2014 wedding because it worked with our school schedules, being the end of Quarter 3, and it was before Bjorn had an entire summer of army training in Virginia. (We wanted to be married before that.) In August 2013, I moved down to his hometown to the house we live in now. (He lived at home with his family, 5 miles away from our current place, before we married.)
That meant I had about 7 months of living alone and learning to make this rental house a home! I’ve always loved the idea of keeping a home – I’m a homebody, after all, and I love cleaning, organizing, and just plain making things feel homey – but it certainly has been a work in progress! To be honest, the house did not feel like “my home” when I first moved down here. That’s just how it goes sometimes. Plus, we don’t own it. (We are renting it from Bjorn’s grandparents.) But over time – and I think because I put a lot of intention into it – this home slowly turned into a place I’m really attached to now! It has grown on me a ton and I love it!
In college I lived in an on-campus apartment with 6 girls – a very different atmosphere and responsibility level than living all alone in a house and taking care of all tasks myself! As an introvert, I embraced living alone post-college for the most part. I really don’t like spending nights alone, though – so I’m grateful for the “Beach Boys” promise of marriage that Bjorn and I have now: “We could say goodnight and stay together…” 😉
Thus began the journey of making this house into a happy home that Bjorn and I now share.
** Fun fact: while it’s not on the National Register of Historic Places, this house has a neat history. It’s where former Vice-President Walter Mondale grew up! This is his hometown. And Mondale even announced his 1984 campaign to run for the Presidency against Ronald Reagan from the back porch here! This old home has some cool stories.
Since we are renting, we haven’t gone crazy with things like painting rooms or knocking down walls. 🙂 So, I’ve had to find other ways to really develop the character of this older house, make it our own, and enhance the “coziness factor.” Today I’m sharing some of the ways I’ve worked to make this home cozy and ours. 🙂
12 Things That Make Our House a Cozy Home:
1 // A fish tank. We have a big 75-gallon fish tank in our living room, instead of a TV. I’d say it adds greatly to the coziness factor in our home. A fish tank of any size adds a touch of tranquility to a room. I think fish tanks really have a spa-like quality, with their water sounds and peaceful-looking rocks and fish! It’s basically the first thing you see when you walk into our place, and I think it really sets the tone for our living room – it reminds you that you are home and peaceful, and there’s no incessant TV on to distract you.
^^ This photo is actually from 2 years ago, so a few things have changed (including my photography improving, haha), but this is the general feel of our gallery wall and fish tank area! ^^
We love our fish a lot. We chose to invest a good amount of money in our fish and the tank setup, in place of a television. The fish tank is more Bjorn’s than mine, I suppose – he takes care of them better than I do 😉 and he does the tank cleaning and water filling, etc. I highly recommend a tank of any size if you’re looking to make a room more cozy and welcoming.
2 // Lighting. It took me a while to figure this out when I first moved here, but lighting really affects the coziness of a space! If all you use are overhead lights, you’ll never feel cozy. I finally bought a nice lamp for our living room for $7 at an estate sale, and it has made all the difference! I like to only have that lamp on – no overhead light – in the early mornings or darker evenings. The fish tank light actually adds to the ambiance, too! (And boy oh boy, the Christmas tree lights at night during the holiday season make us never want to leave the living room!!)
^^ A little holiday lighting in the kitchen – can’t wait to get out this tiny tree again this year! ^^
As far as other rooms in our house go, Bjorn and I each have a lamp on our side of the bed. I just love having only those 2 lamps on in our room in the evenings – it is so cozy! We have a cute little lamp in the nursery, too. I basically recommend having a lamp in any corner of the house where you would plop down and read a book or drink a mug of tea. 🙂 And although we don’t have this at our place, I’ve heard that light switch dimmers are really nice, allowing you to control just how bright even the overhead lights are.
3 // Music. I mean this both in the listening sense and the decor sense. We have a record player in our living room, and I feel that having a physical record player adds a ton to a room’s atmosphere!! Just seeing it sitting there makes you want to slow down! 🙂 Besides just having a record player, I’ve found that playing music throughout the day is super important when it comes to feeling low-key and peaceful. Any room instantly feels cozy if you’ve got your favorite playlist on in the background.
4 // Gallery walls. I didn’t add gallery walls (or much, photo-wise) until we had been married over a year and a half. But then, I started brainstorming where I’d like to put up some photos and what I’d like to include. It was a really fun project to get some photos up in our living room above the fish tank, and it really helps to pull the room together (as opposed to a blank wall).
Having a gallery wall full of portraits or decor does make a wall seem closer or more “pulled into” the room, but I don’t mind that because it has made the room feel more cozy and friendly. (And even if you don’t want to go all out with the gallery wall route, simply having nice artwork and portraits up in your home will really make it feel like your own personalized, homey space!)
5 // Cozy textures and fabrics in the room decor. I love a good cozy blanket or soft pillow to curl up with on the couch or bed. I bought a couple soft, cream-colored pillows for our living room this summer, and I’ve found that whenever people come over and sit in the living room, they just can’t help hugging the pillows! 🙂 They’re that cozy! I also have a nice basket I picked up from HomeGoods that I store extra throw blankets in.
Speaking of cozy fabrics, one of my favorite things about this place is the amount of white lace curtains we have! They came with the house, of course, and I just love them so much. The best part about them is when they blow in the breeze from an open window. 🙂
6 // Candles or essential oils. Basically, can you tell that the coziness factor in a home depends on involving all of our senses? 🙂 I don’t burn candles much at all, but I sure love my essential oils and diffuser! I use Young Living oils. I love to diffuse their Purification blend, Thieves blend (which smells like cinnamon!), or their Joy blend. The light scent fills much of the house when I run the diffuser downstairs in the kitchen or dining room.
Diffusing scents is pretty much the first step in my cleaning routine, because it sets the stage for a peaceful, clean-smelling space. (I even have an oil blend called Christmas Spirit that I can’t wait to use during the holiday season!)
7 // Grouping furniture well. I used to have the couch in our living room pushed back against the far wall, but then realized that if we pulled it forward about 4 feet, it suddenly made the living room into a true “living space” and not just a big room with furniture lined up on the edges. I’m not an interior decorator, but it has helped a lot to make sure furniture sits in a way that feels like “conversational groupings.” (Basically, you make sure that wherever a person could sit down in the room, they can still feel turned towards others and a part of the conversation!)
8 // Fancy-looking soap. I especially am a fan of lovely hand soaps in the bathroom and kitchen, and nice-looking dish soap out in the kitchen. It’s funny, because soap seems like such a small deal, but having nice soap and a fluffy hand towel in the bathroom make things feel more luxurious and homey.
9 // Rugs. I got a brown rug for our living room at least a couple years ago, and it has made all the difference! Our living room opens up to our other “front room” which I call the “piano room,” as well as to the dining room, so having a rug on the living room floor helps your eyes to visually separate the space between the different rooms. I also am daily glad I splurged on a nice rug by our kitchen sink – it’s tan and cream, and it’s my favorite rug in the house! We also have a nice doormat outside and a rug directly inside the front door to wipe our shoes on. While many rugs are made to be functional, I think that putting a rug in our living room area and in the kitchen really help our home feel cozy and personalized.
10 // Plants. Bjorn has an entire table dedicated to his succulents and cactuses! He’s definitely the one with the green thumb – not me – but I do still love the plants anyway.
Plants add greenery and freshness to a space, and I feel they make a room more homey. 🙂
11 // Going with a color scheme or a theme. This, to me, means not buying anything that just looks cute; I must evaluate if it fits into our already existing color scheme! I do have dreams about exact color schemes for our future home, so I do pick up some pieces that go along with that palette (ahem, gray + white!). But much of our place right now (especially downstairs) has a color scheme involving darker woods, and blacks and browns and tans. And there is a lot of unique patterned wallpaper! So, I make sure that I tie the decor together by not purchasing anything bright pink! 😉 Having a particular color scheme – even if it’s not perfect – relaxes the eyes and makes everything feel cozy and like it fits together.
RELATED: Check out my Tumblr – “The Peace House”
12 // Keeping the place clean! Now, this is currently harder to do with our new baby around, but I’ve found that maintaining a cleaner place makes me feel SO much happier and more at home. Cozy doesn’t mean cluttered to me. I think there’s a definite difference between cozy and messy. Messy doesn’t feel cozy to me – it feels chaotic. But having a tidy space makes me breathe deeper and settle in better. And it can definitely still look like people live here, haha – it doesn’t have to be a 100% pristine environment, because that can potentially feel unfriendly – but just a bit of organization and clean surfaces goes a long way!
^^ I’m obsessed with having a clean kitchen!! It’s the best feeling! (Also, that’s the cream/ivory kitchen rug I mentioned earlier – it’s my favorite!) ^^
RELATED: If you’re looking for cleaning checklists, definitely subscribe to my email list! You’ll have access to a lot of free resources, including checklists for tidying your home!
Do you feel cozy in your own place? How do you make your home feel homey? 🙂